death by powerpoint
PowerPoint presentations may not have actually killed anyone, but they’ve sure killed many an idea.
Our ideas are only as good as how we communicate them. Yet it is common to neuter ideas with mind-numbing slide presentations. We sometimes assume the longer and more verbose the slide deck, the more credibility our idea will have.
I was struck by this quote from Steve Jobs, soon after he returned to Apple:
“I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking. People confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
This cartoon was partly inspired by Dan Roam’s wonderful new book called “Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work“. It’s a handbook on getting beyond the “blah blah blah” in any form of communication.
“We think that thinking means stringing words together in a meaningful way. We think that talking is the best way to share an idea. We think that speaking well is the cornerstone of intelligence.”
Yet too much of communication is “blah blah blah”. And rarely do we see more “blah blah blah” than in PowerPoint presentations.
Years ago, I heard an riveting talk by Chris Bangle, who led design for BMW. As he spoke, every slide was nothing more than a hand-drawn stick figure and a few words. Chris explained he always presented with stick figures, whether at a board meeting or a factory. He said that stick figures forced him to really know what he was talking about, because he couldn’t hide behind a PowerPoint slide. Stick figures also guaranteed that everyone in the room would understand him. Here was one of the most influential design thinkers in the world, and he communicated with stick figures.